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How to manage football fans during the World Cup: three simple tips for HR professionals

We’re on the horizon of World Cup season and rather than focussing on the football, we’re looking at how HR professionals can manage their employees during the tournament.

The World Cup is an event that grips the nation like no other and employees with an interest in it will find a way to engage with the tournament, with or without consent.

At Vista we have spent plenty of time working with our clients to manage the employment law fallout of similar situations. Here’s three simple steps employers can take to minimise the impact of the World Cup in the workplace:

  1. Lay out the ground rules in advance

Communicate with your workforce; talk to them about what opportunity there might be to engage with the tournament during working hours. This might mean making a couple of allowances, such putting the radio on where this may not have been permitted previously or having a breakout room where people can go and watch the TV or check the score intermittently. You might even want to ask the workforce for ideas on how a balance can be achieved.

This approach will help you win some brownie points, and employees are more likely to respect the limitations you ultimately put in place. Here’s the fixtures for the next six weeks to help with your planning.

  1. Acknowledge non-football fans

So, what about the employees which have no interest in discussing how much they like Nigeria’s new kit or keeping up to speed with England’s starting eleven?

This can be tricky. The reality is events such as the World Cup and the likes of the Royal Wedding have a national significance that is difficult to contest.

HR teams must be clear about the reasons why these allowances are being made, respect other employees interests, and openly acknowledge that any special provisions can be a bit rough on those who simply aren’t interested. We have found that this acknowledgement can go a long way towards diffusing any bad feelings towards the circumstances.

  1. When employees disregard the rules, investigate and follow your disciplinary procedure

Despite having clear rules and generous allowances in place, some employees will still misbehave. If employers have a suspicion that an employee has taken time off work when they weren’t permitted, or even worse, been dishonest about why they have been away from work, that should be investigated and dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.

Don’t make any special allowances, the allowances were made above, with your permission. If an issue does arise and rules are broken, HR teams will be dealing with a fundamental behavioural issue and one that needs dealing with in the same way any other issue would be dealt with.

Ultimately, our advice to clients is to do whatever they can to be clear about their expectations and make sure that the rules are enforced fairly.

Football in general is met with a mixed reception at Vista HQ and is the source of plenty of entertaining debates! Before writing this blog, we also spent some time talking about the best ways in which HR teams can manage their football fans during the World Cup and filmed the debate – football shirts and all, you can watch it here.


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